Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 2011 gigs

57. Lower Plenty, The [mini] Stabs, The Empress 2/4/2011
I’d been dying to see a band who’d be bold enough to name them after one of the whitest bogan suburbs in the North Eastern suburbs. Whilst there was some faux bogan happening on stage with one of the best mullets around town, there was little Bogan about it. Lower Plenty are a 4 piece indie group with some excellent moments, featuring the mullet from Dick Diver who is a natural, albeit reluctant front man. The band features three singers including the spkeasy Eurasian guy on guitar and one gal who played percussion and guitar who seemed to be having a miserable time on stage. Listening, they sounded like good, delicate indie pop with character. The Stabs is a three piece and features my favourite DJ/door person on drums, Matt Bowlofdick, also from the PKE. After meaning to have seen them, I finally did, but only for three songs then I had to go. The first two were the lead singer of The Stabs, who played guitar. Melancholy, brooding, desperate, awesome guitar sounds. Totally into it, but you’ve gotta be in the right mood. The final song I witnessed included all three on stage – it was more of the same, but the same was good. The best surprise was, that you could listen, and not get bored. I had to leave, so I missed the rest of their set and missed Footy, so The Stabs and Footy are on my To Do list.


58. The Pictures at The Caringbush 3/4/2011
Not the greatest band venue ever, but it’s grouse to have a local pub, hosting music. Today it was The Pictures, a band who I’d seen before, but never paid attention to. The Pictures are a three piece: guitar, bass and drums that also sing harmonies. Each member is so excellently competent at their instruments, it’s either sickening or brilliant. At The Caringbush, this three piece are LOUD with their brand of 60’s inspired rock and roll meets Tim Rogers inspired rock and roll. It’s so easy to say the latter- I know, but a couple of songs could have been straight from the You Am I songbook. Now for the criticism, As a frontman, Davey Lane excels at guitar, and has a bloody decent voice but his onstage presence projects a person who’s painfully self conscious- he’s either really egotistical or excruciatingly shy. So the banter doesn’t charm, and doesn’t help bridge the gaps between songs. The gaps existed because the band hadn’t played together for 18 months, but for an audience, it’s not really an excuse. After all they’re pros and the show must go on. Thirdly, they make a brilliant cover band, but their own songs don’t really capture the imagination, turn you inside out or anything dazzling. The Detroit Cobras are a band who believes in the old way of doing things: that the performer is not necessarily the best songwriter. I concur, it’s no crime to do the songs of others for a whole set. My bestie remarked: “Elvis never wrote any of his songs”… Today’s performance felt like a rehearsal, at times they were blistering, at other times underwhelming, but it still feels like a treat having The Pictures play at The Carro.


59. Unknown band playing support at King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard Workers Club 4/4/2011
One big indie troupe playing dense, anthemic indie pop, so loud it all merges into one block of sound. The hook seems to be the singer who uses falsetto with all his might and whilst the kids lap it up, I’m not convinced. I can see how it all fits on JJJ, it only cost $2 to get in, and they’re serving $2 pots. A solid recipe for getting the young ones out on Monday night.


60. Chook Race, Drab Doo Riffs Bar open 7/4/2011
Caught 3 songs by Chook Race, a young, “kids from the ‘burbs” 3 piece with a lady drummer who sang some wafting background vocals. Energetic surf & upbeat pop. In a word, fun. Drab Doo Riffs are a motley crew of NZ weird hipsters who possess a touch of energy and substance to their gargey, poppy fun time songs. They’ve also got grouse unrestrained dance moves. There’s no great singers, but there are great wardrobes, and all members are performers. Especially the moustache donning, suit wearing, balding lead singer who looked like a suspect in Cluedo. He put so much into his performance, at times looked as if he was having an onstage exorcism. They’re a wacky – no ludicrous – entertaining party band – for anyone who ever felt like an outsider.

61. Machine, The Empress 8/4/2011
Machine are a 3 piece instrumental act with steady driving rhythm section, coloured by guitar highlights. If electro pop became a band this is what it would sound like. As a consequence, it attracted a the young kids.


62. Danny Widdicombe The Rainbow 10/4/2011
Didn’t he win a song writing competition in QLD last year? I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard. So we arrived to see what was going on – and turns out nothing. Except there’s a drummer, electric fiddle [wearing full Adidas brown tracksuit with orange stripe and matching shoes], bass and Danny on guitar. But then they started about 20 minutes after the said time, and I was hoping for songwriting genius to draw me in. Waiting, nothing, so we sit outside, and then it starts. Song 3 – divine pop song with hooks. And now it’s time to go….

63. Chigwell Sharp The Marquis 10/4/2011
Four piece, Chigwell Sharp clear the Sunday afternoon crowd, because they play loud, ballsy, excitingly and energetically. I think this is the best I’ve ever seen them. It doesn’t makes sense right? Well it does, and here’s the theory: the venue have built up a reputation for having easy Sunday afternoon music. But everybody’s doing it so, why not have a rock’n’roll afternoon? It’s risky, and to do something completely different, means attracting a different crowd, and the bands will need to do their own publicity to help build it. Will it stick?

64. Sleeper, Merri Creek Pickers Old Bar 10/4/2011
Sleeper is a what appears to be a hair metal dude, hair overhanging face, playing acoustic guitar who sings Buckley meets M Ward + a little more grunt. Guitar rich, there’s nothing offensive here, but the songs seem to end before you realize.
Merri Creek Pickers are a string band[banjo/mando/acoustic guitar] with drums and electric bass and electric guitar played with slide and once central singer who possesses a yelping style.


65. Chigwell Sharp Great Britain 16/4/2011
Chigwell Sharp play loud and the world should listen. Sally Bailey has a ferocious attack, then thanks the people of Melbourne between songs. They terrified some [gals frocked up doing their Swan pre-drinks], and attracted others who could handle it [music listeners]. Sadly missed Two Watts featuring guys from The Thod?! They’re on my must see list.

66. Bonniwells Workers Club 18/4/2011
The Bonniwells are a three piece, consisting of youngsters who look like boys. They play with different styles, sometimes sounding Nirvana-ish. Other times sounding like simple 60’s pop. There’s some excellent guitar solos, a singing drummer with X-ray specs, a bassist who looks like a cross between a coffee shop folkie meets man of the sea, and a crazy eyed singer-guitarist who seems to take wardrobe cues from Cobain. They can be slack. And I like that. But they can also play with intensity and exuberance. I like that too. In fact [despite the Nirvana references] I like this band. They’ve got a lot of style, sure most of it’s borrowed but without sounding too condescending, they’re on the right path.


67. Dale Watson and the Lone Star Band, Cherry 19/4/2011
A Mexican drummer who’d just completed Lent, a long haired pedal steel player, a dressed up double bassist, a fiddle player and a silver quiffed Dale Watson playing Honky Tonk music at Cherry. Translation: the venue was full of middle aged cowboys and double denim women giving their full attention to US front bar country music. Complete with the stories about drinkin’ and so on..., Dale’s an excellent storyteller and great at in between songs banter. The crowd particularly enjoyed Merle and Johnny Paycheck covers. And he was taking requests. Needless to say, the crowd was pretty happy about it all. With this damn cold I could only stay for one set.


68. Buffy Sainte-Marie The National Theatre 20/4/2011
With Bluesfest in town, Melbourne music fans were spoiled for choice, Los Lobos at the Prince, Irma Thomas at the Corner, Mavis Staples and the Blind Boys of Alabama feat Aaron Neville at Palais? Bob Dylan at Rod Laver, and this was on top of the usual Wednesday night stuff. I chose Buffy at the advice of someone wiser than I, who said the experience would be most unique.

Buffy Sainte-Marie is a 60 year old native American Indian who grew up in Canada, moved to US for university? And played in the NY coffee houses singing folk and protest songs in the 60’s. A songwriter and singer, she’s had a long career in music and education. I learned that from Inpress.

Her band of young American Indian guys[guitar, bass & drums] are dressed up tough like rock-guys on Video Hits. And then there’s Buffy, tiny, all in black, jeans, black hair with red highlights, leather studded jacket ready to perform.

A good reviewer will tell you the songs she played. Not me. But what I can tell you is her set was full of contrast, which was excellent for the following reasons: 1 There was no time to get bored. 2. It helped when she jumped on the keyboard and launched into schmaltzy cheese ball songs. 3. I was thankful for the contrast when she and her band rocked out in the style of Christian rock. So that’s the negative.

Here’s the positive. Buffy built the contrast using her awesome voice. When it’s quiet, it’s this beautifully breathy, when she’s story telling, there’s strength, and when she lets go it’s almost like a banshee screech. Sounds scary but live, it’s amazing. And at every mode she performs with conviction. Another reason to like her was her charming banter which was essentially leftist diatribe. A highlight was Cripple Creek played on an instrument of war with her mouth, and singing it at the same time. Another highlight was song from her new album about having a party on a reservation, where she used the full force of her vocal ability. She can also dance.

Here’s a 60 year old lady introducing a different culture to listeners. Though some of the songs may challenge your sense of good taste, she is genre defying, in what appears to be her attempt to make her own path. And that’s awesome right? Sickness couldn’t stop me feeling buoyant about it: Buffy Sainte-Marie is really cool.

69. Caitlin Rose and The Felice Brothers 21/4/2011
Another night in St Kilda with this blasted head cold! But how could I resist? 2 alt country international acts in town. I know nothing about Caitlin Rose, except she’s young. On stage it’s apparent this is true. She’s accompanied by Jeremy on guitar and Spencer on Pedal steel. All three are young, and they’re also good. Caitlin Rose can really sing. She does delicate, but her best is when she lets go, yelps in an Iris De Ment lite style. It’s impressive. Pedal steel should make a song glow and glimmer, highlighting beauty in a song, and with only three on stage it did. And guitar arrangements perfectly slotted in. This is an act that works and although she might not be old enough to have the good heart breaking stories, she’s surely got the sound right.

After a long wait, The Felice Brothers come out. There’s five of them and they’ve got energy to burn. It almost appears to be alt country meets sport. Fiddle, Piano accordion-keys, drums, bass, guitar-vocals. To me The Felice Brothers have 3 modes; slow burn country pop songs, rollicking drinking music and electro pop influenced version of the Felice Brothers[newer stuff]. They play together really well, have excellent crescendos, good dramatic pauses, but their best is their drinkin’ music. And I was bored beyond belief by everything else. Perhaps my intolerance was cold-related. By the end I had to stand up the back, waiting for it to end. Afterwards, I met others who said they LOVED IT.


70. George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic The Palace 25/4/2011
A sixteen piece band, including 3 rotating drummers, a bunch of great singers including a spine tingling great soul singer named Kendra Foster, guitar played by a guitarist who slices through the funk, an operatic backing singer on rollerskates, a dancing guy dressed as a pimp with white furryness who partook in topless dancing to reveal his six pack, a lady guitarist smoking on stage, a rapping grand daughter, a man dressed as a king with braided hair, a singing saxophone player, a keyboardist with keys everywhere he turned. Who did I miss? George Clinton an old man dressed in hip hop attire – constantly in the now, but always forward thinking. I’m no expert in GC, Parliament or Funkadelic, but throughout the 2 and a bit hours, it was almost always entertaining. It was something different for us Aussies, the musicians were top class. Lyrical content is ludicrous and total cheese at times, but it always felt fun = like a good gig should be. Interestingly, George Clinton appeared to lead the band, most apparent by shhsssssshhhhhhhhh-ing them at times. Last song: Maggot Brain was a perfect slow-burn ending for the larger than life show.

71. Two Watts Pony 25/4/2011
Two Watts are a two piece featuring a guitarist from the Thod and the drummer from Yis. Whilst one plays guitar, the other plays drums. The Yis guy wears an angry expression, The Thod guy appears flouncy. Young and finding their sound, they waver between un-melodic rock and melo-melodic pop.

72. Lanie Lane The Gem 28/4/2011
The greatest enemies of seeing as much as you can in this town: illness; cold weather and complacency. Overcome those factors to see as much as you can – that’s what I’ve got to say to myself. Lanie Lane is a good time – front bar singer who plays guitar with a jazzy voice, and a rockabilly look and at times sound. She’s beautiful, young and has a sweet, twangy voice and a following of hot young chicks. So why didn’t she reach me?! OK, I don’t slot into that demographic, but the point is, she didn’t reach me. Have I turned to stone? Or was it that if you subtract the stylistic trimmings, you’ve got a singer with a nice voice? The last song was the best song: an acapella that featured the audience at the Gem doing backing vocals.


73. The Zingers, Woolen Kits, The UV Race, Noise Bar 29/4/2011
It rarely happens but I was dying to catch the supports on this act. But with the Zingers, I walked in, then immediately walked out. Too loud or were they just bad? Hard to tell. Woolen Kits are a three piece who play short indie pop songs with jangly guitars, and no bass. Vocals are shared by the lead singer and drummer, who sing solo and harmonies. The set was cut short by a broken string on the lead guitarists instrument and throughout the set, the drummer maintained an agro face. The UV Race are such a hip band, attracting young hipsters from Collingwood to Brunswick and within. It’s the album launch for Homo, and they’ve dressed up. Boys in girls clothes, girls in boys clothes. And the lead singer takes to the stage dressed in a gold to the floor gown. With the way the light bounces, he’s desperately in need of corsetry. But it’s not an exercise in vanity. They’re putting on a show right? This is an indie pop band, with a shouty lead vocalist, who is a bogan, a loudmouth and funny guy. As a band, they’ve got charisma in addition to infectious songs, and it’s impossible to resist the nodding of the head in appreciation of good, messy indie pop. Although they’ve been around for a few years, they’re very now, and this is reflected in the crowd. For indie pop readers over 25, sure you’ve probably seen it all before but it’s time to move aside, this is current crop of cool kids. For indie pop readers under, this is what you should be listening to.
Note: During the encore, too much surprise dry ice was shot out, causing a mass hipster exodus. The over calculation, even made the band members laugh. But you could only hear it.

74. Chigwell Sharp, Little Murders, Decline of the Reptiles Cornish Arms 30/4/2011
The powerful vocals, intertwined with the piercing guitar of 4 piece rock band Chigwell Sharp make them an arresting act. As one audience member said, “they get better and better each time I see them”. Catch them if you can. Little Murders consist of old guys who play teenage-esque pop songs about love. Sure they’re old, but their songs are good. Although the lead singer tries a bit hard and is terribly self conscious, his phrasing is excellent. The harmonies are really good, and they’ve got a record out through Off The Hip. Little Murders are an easy to listen to pop band. Affronted by the loudness to begin with, Decline of the Reptiles used to be big in Sydney in the late 80’s. It’s pop music that turns a little funky at times. Keys were great, actually all musicians in this band were good. But together, it didn’t gel for me. I wonder if it was the attitude of the lead singer who seemed unhappy with his lot?